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Returning to my favourite (and fastest) ever race

5 Jan Reading Half training morning
I am so excited to have been selected as a Blogger Ambassador for Reading Half Marathon. The race takes place on Sunday 18th March, 2018. 
I first ran Reading Half in 2012 and was thrilled to achieve a PB of nearly 25 minutes, finishing the race in 1:52:19. I’m fairly confident that I could have smashed that time last year, but my training has suffered, so it will be interesting to see how it goes this year. I absolutely loved running Reading Half in 2012, but I’ve never returned as I’ve been afraid that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. I still don’t really know how I did so well in 2012 – I sometimes wonder whether it was down to the bottle of Lucozade that I drank before the start of the race!
Reading Half 2012

With team-mates from Lordshill Road Runners after Reading Half Marathon 2012

Some of the things that I enjoyed about the race were the enthusiastic crowds who turned out to support the runners, the music along the course and the finish inside the Madejski Stadium. I also enjoyed running with my training partner, Irene.
After being ill over Christmas, I’ve not been running as much as usual at all, so I’m keen to get back to training. Tomorrow, I’m attending a Training Morning in Reading.
Reading Half training morning
    The morning will start with a workout led by the Townsend Twins, who will also be leading the warm up on race day. I’m still thinking about studying to become a Personal Trainer, so I’ll be seeing whether I can pick up any tips as well as having some fun!
    Next up will be a seminar on pace management led by Ali Galbraithe. I’ve run as a pacer for several events, and it’s a role that I’ve enjoyed, but it’s much easier to run at a consistent pace when you’re within your comfort zone. I’ll be keen to learn how to improve my pacing and maybe even how to go for that elusive negative split.
    After a group run, Berkshire Physio will be leading a cool down and giving an injury prevention talk. I’ve been neglecting my stretches recently, so this might push me into taking more care of myself.
    Overall, I’m so excited about this opportunity. I’ll do my best to take loads of photos and will be reporting back on what I’ve learnt.

     Have you thought about signing up for Reading Half? There’s a competition to win some great kit for anyone who enters during January, so what are you waiting for?!

    I managed a sprint tri in the space of a week

    13 Nov Fitness instructor course materials

    I really thought that I was going to get back into a routine of work, training and blogging with M starting nursery… but three weeks in and her attendance is 25% 😦 The poor thing has picked up every illness going and shared it with the household, so I’ve not had a lot of free time.

    One thing I have been doing is getting out on my bike. I’m really enjoying my cycle commute – I had forgotten how much I love my quick trip to work, although it’s definitely more challenging with a trailer – and the logistics of adding it on and removing it have taken a bit of getting used to.

    I’ve got back to doing a bit of swimming, starting off with a lunchtime swimming session with Liz and then a week later, I did a 1 hour swim set on my own. I really need to plan my swimming sessions more carefully (and ideally swim more than once a week). Hopefully, I’ll soon be able to swim at the weekend as Stu and I are planning to take M to the pool on Sundays. It would be good to also schedule a midweek swim session.

    Last week we went to Southampton parkrun, where I had a steady run. I spoke to a few people on the way around and was pleased that my time wasn’t terrible.

    parkrun 04 Nov 2017

    This week it was my turn to run with the buggy, so I joined Rachel, Phil and Felix. We started off at a slow pace because of the congestion, but definitely picked it up by the end of the run. I’m not as fit as I was, so it felt really difficult.

    parkrun results 11 Nov 2017

    I love the chance to talk to so many friends at parkrun. I had a quick catch up with my friend, Teri, and we agreed that we need to schedule in some social runs. We discussed perhaps going for a run on Sunday morning, but I decided to have a lie in instead. It was the right decision as I felt shattered.

    On Saturday afternoon, we drove down to Bournemouth to go to the Primera Cycle Expo at the BIC. I’ve been a couple of times before and have picked up some real bargains. This time, there was a lot of Sugoi kit for sale at bargain prices (£5 per cycle jersey and £10 for shorts!)… but everything was in enormous sizes, which was disappointing. Maybe we needed to go earlier in the day. After checking out the reduced kit, Stu, M and I walked around and had a look at the bikes. I still really like the look of Kuota bikes and the paintwork on some of the Specialized bikes was gorgeous… but what really caught my eye were the adorable Cannondale Lefty balance bikes. A sales assistant kindly got out an Allen key and put the saddle down so that M could have a go. She is still a tiny bit short, but I think by Easter, it may be possible for her to have a balance bike. (However, I can’t afford to fork out £200, so it’s more likely to be a bike from Decathlon than a new Cannondale!)

    Cannondale Lefty balance bike

    One of the most exciting parts of my weekend was visiting Bournemouth University to pick up some course materials. Next weekend, I  take the first step on a new career path (although I love my job as a learning designer and can’t see me quitting that any time soon!) I’m going to be doing a course to become a Fitness Instructor, so I’ve been busy studying anatomy and physiology in preparation for the course. It’s a bit challenging as I haven’t studied any biology since the age of 13, but I’m really motivated and excited to be learning.

    Fitness instructor course materials

    On Sunday afternoon, Reena and Mike came over to collect the Mountain Buggy running buggy that we took to Australia. I hope they enjoy running with it as much as we did. Like me, Reena has a place in London Landmarks Half.

    Afterwards, we went and watched some of the cyclocross at Southampton Outdoor Sports Centre. I had planned to watch the event a year ago, but ended up back in hospital that afternoon instead, so I was pleased that I got to see some of the action as well as meeting friends.

    In the evening, I read that there will be a new route for Southampton 10k, half marathon and marathon in 2018, which sounds exciting. I loved running the marathon this year, but I think I’ll drop back to the half in 2018 as I’ll be running a marathon in July and don’t want to have to sustain the training for that long.

    Hopefully, things will settle down a bit for me in the new few weeks and I’ll be able to get into the swing of regular swimming, cycling and running with a yoga class thrown in for good measure. It’s not going to be easy fitting in blogging and studying, but I’m sure I’ll find a way!


    Because of baby M’s illness, I’ve not been online much this week, so I was late to visit Rafflecopter to draw the winners of Haseeb Ahmad’s book From Blind Man to Ironman – apologies! The lucky winners who will each receive a copy of the book are:

    Sarah Wakely

    Michelle Dorrington

    Congratulations, ladies! The books will be in the post to you very soon 🙂

     

    Illness stops play

    29 Oct London Landmarks Half

    My plan for last weekend was to go swimming on Sunday, but M was unwell, so we cancelled that plan and went for a long walk instead. She was ill all week and I also had a cold, which changed my plans.

    I cycled to work on Monday and Thursday, which was good, but I didn’t manage to fit in any other running or swimming during the week.

    On Saturday, Stuart, M, my mum and I all went to parkrun. It was my turn to run with M, so we decided to run with my mum. My mum has been really unwell recently and has not been able to do her usual exercise, so she found the run harder than usual. I was really impressed that her final time was within a couple of minutes of her PB.

    Southampton parkrun 28 Oct 17

    Today, we went out for a long walk, which helped me rack up a good number of steps (almost 15 000).

    Hopefully, M will have a ore successful start at nursery this week and I’ll be able to start my new exercise programme. I’m planning to swim with Liz tomorrow and to run with Sarah later in the week before putting in a couple of hours of training on Friday.

    I had a reminder that the London Landmarks Half is now only 5 months away. I’ve not planned how to get there or anything yet, so that might be a task for the next week.

    London Landmarks Half


    Thank you to everyone who’s voted for Fat Girl to Ironman so far – there’s still time to cast your vote in The 2018 Running Awards.

    Nominated for The 2018 Running Awards. Please vote for me.

    Running with a buggy Q&A

    25 Oct Eastleigh 10k

    I’m regularly asked questions about running with a buggy (and other issues relating to being a running mum), so I thought I’d share some of my insights and some useful links in a single post…

    parkrun 14 Oct 17

    Do I need a special buggy?

    It’s recommended that you only run with a buggy that is designed for running. There are a number of different brands available at different price points and you can also pick them up second-hand. The most popular ones that are available in the UK seem to be Out N About Nipper Sport, Thule Glide and Bugaboo Runner, but you can also buy running buggies by Mountain Buggy and BOB… and Thule Chariots can be used as running buggies (if you buy the conversion kit).

    There are a number of specialist sales groups on Facebook where you can find a second-hand running buggy, including:

     

    How do you deal with punctures?

    Baby M is nearly a year old and her buggy had its first puncture recently. I wasn’t with her at the time, but Stu dealt with the puncture in the same way that he would on a bike – he replaced the inner tube. It is possible to fix the puncture with a patch, but they’re not always reliable.

    Some people choose to slime their tyres, but I’ve never done that on a bike and am capable of dealing with a puncture, so don’t intend to go down that route. If you aren’t confident that you can replace an inner tube then it might be the right option for you. Essentially, if your inner tube gets pierced, the slime covers the hole and solidifies, so you don’t need to replace the tube.

     

    I’m not a runner, how can I keep fit?

    You might want to try Couch to 5k, which is available as podcasts or an app. It is a sensible way of building your running up to 5k (3.1 miles). If it’s been a long time since you’ve exercised, you might want to start off by walking and gradually increase the amount of time or number of times you walk each week.

    You might also find a Buggyfit class in your area. There isn’t one in Southampton, but I attended ParkLives Buggy Mums classes, which are similar, whilst I was on maternity leave. If you’re in Hampshire, there’s also BuggyWorkout in the Winchester area and a Buggy Workout class at Fleming Park in Eastleigh.

     

    Are there any online support groups that I can join?

    There are several Facebook groups for buggy runners:

    (There are plenty of other local groups, such as East Midlands, Hereford, Birmingham, Nottingham, Fairway, Brighton and Hove, Poplar, Somerset, Rissington)

     

    Can I take part in any races/events?

    There is some confusion about what the UKA (UK Athletics rules) state about whether buggies can be used in races, and it seems to be left to each Race Director to make their own judgement.

    I’ve found that the best place to look for races is Buggy Friendly Running Events (UK) – a closed Facebook group. You might also want to look at parkrun – buggy and wheelchair friendly courses – a public Facebook group.

     

    I’m breastfeeding – is it OK for me to run?

    The evidence seems to suggest that there are no detrimental effects relating to breastfeeding and running, but plenty of benefits. (https://kellymom.com/bf/can-i-breastfeed/lifestyle/mom-exercise/ ).

    It’s not always easy to find a sports bra that’s suitable for nursing… and to find one that doesn’t break the bank is almost an impossibility. A lot of people like Brooks/Moving Comfort – Juno, but that’s quite expensive and only available in a limited range of sizes. A similar bra that is available in a much wider range of sizes at a lower price point is SYROKAN Women’s High Impact Full Cup Wire Free Lightly Padded Gym Run Sports Bra.

    Have you run with a buggy? Do you have any tips that you can share?


    Thank you to everyone who’s voted for Fat Girl to Ironman so far – there’s still time to cast your vote in The 2018 Running Awards.

    Nominated for The 2018 Running Awards. Please vote for me.

    parkrun Challenges

    24 Oct

    I love attending parkrun every week, so I’ve decided to set myself a number of parkrun related challenges for the next year. Most of them are teeny tiny goals, but I thought they might add some fun.

    parkrun volunteer

    • Achieve my 250 club (17 parkruns to go)
    • Qualify for a cow cowl (I need to do 1 more UK parkrun) Cow cowl
    • Do an international parkrun (this might not happen)
    • Get an overall PB (<23:40)
    • Achieve PBs in 5 locations
    • Do all of the parkruns in Cornwall (Trelissick and the new Eden Project ones to go)
    • Do all of the parkruns in Hampshire (7 to go)
      • Alice Holt – done
      • Andover – done
      • Basingstoke – done
      • Brockenhurst – done
      • Eastleigh – done
      • Fareham – done
      • Havant
      • Lee-on-the-Solent – done
      • Lymington Woodside
      • Medina I.O.W
      • Netley Abbey – done
      • Portsmouth Lakeside
      • Queen Elizabeth
      • Rushmoor
      • Southampton – done
      • Southsea
      • Whiteley – done
      • Winchester – done
    • Do other near-by parkruns:
      • Blandford
      • Moors Valley
      • Poole
      • Salisbury
      • Upton House
      • Weymouth
    • Encourage 3 friends to do a parkrun
    • Support my mum to get a parkrun PB

    Do you do parkrun? What’s your next parkrun goal?


    Thank you to everyone who’s voted for Fat Girl to Ironman so far – there’s still time to cast your vote in The 2018 Running Awards.

    Nominated for The 2018 Running Awards. Please vote for me.

    First run after returning to work

    21 Oct Southampton parkrun 21 Oct 17

    It’s hard to believe that my maternity leave is over and that I’m back at work. I’m now working a compressed week (8-6pm, Monday-Thursday), which means that I’ll still have some free time during daylight hours when I’ll be able to cycle/run. I’m also intending to make use of my lunch breaks to do some training – especially as my colleague, Sarah, will be training for London marathon.

    We kick-started our training by going for a lunchtime run on Thursday. I can’t say it was a speedy run as we’re both a bit out of practice, but it was good to have a run and a chat.

    Today, despite the dire weather warnings about Storm Brian, Southampton parkrun went ahead, so I was able to take a step closer to my 250th parkrun.

    Southampton parkrun 21 Oct 17

    I’m feeling so unfit at the moment that my result wasn’t too bad, but I hope that I can get myself back to a 25:XX time in the near future.

    Tomorrow, a lot of my friends will be taking part in the Great South Run. Today’s events relating to GSR have been cancelled, so I hope the weather is kinder tomorrow. I’ll be getting wet whatever the weather as Stu and I are going to take Baby M swimming!

    Are you racing this weekend?

     


    Thank you to everyone who’s voted for Fat Girl to Ironman so far – there’s still time to cast your vote in The 2018 Running Awards.

    Nominated for The 2018 Running Awards. Please vote for me.

    parkrunning Down Under

    18 Oct

    As soon as we had booked our flights to Australia, I got online to check out where the nearest parkruns were. I found that there was a parkrun at Gosling Creek in Orange, just a couple of miles away from where my brother lives and that just two weeks before we were due to arrive a new parkrun was starting in North Wollongong, which is near to where my sister lives. Sadly, there are no parkruns in Hong Kong (yet – see this page where someone is trying to set one up), so we knew we’d have to miss one run whilst away.

    The first parkrun that Stuart and I did was run #3 at North Wollongong parkrun. It seems as though there has been some disagreement with the local council about parking, so the start of this run has changed from being in Wollongong to being at Fairy Meadow, which is a shame as there are no facilities there, whereas there are lots of cafes and coffee shops in Wollongong.

    It is an out and back course, starting in a small park before heading off on a sandy path. It’s an interesting route with a little uphill, a board walk section and a section on grass. It is picturesque and not too busy. Also, it starts at 8am, which is earlier in the UK, but not as early as parkruns in Queensland which usually start at 7am!

    Near the start of North Wollongong parkrun

    The original plan had been for Stuart to run with M in her ‘new’ running buggy, but my sister and her husband decided not to run, so M was able to wait with them whilst Stu and I ran.

    Nearing the turnaround point

    I always perceive Australia to be a very sporty country, so I was surprised at how few competitive runners were taking part – more people were jog/walking with quite a few children. I think it’s great that it’s such an inclusive event. It might be because the weather was quite warm, which made the conditions challenging – maybe the speedier runners are out earlier?

    North Wollongong parkrun

    The lack of lots of super speedy people meant that I came 11/121 females and was 3/15 in my age group.

    My next Australian parkrun was Orange parkrun. This is a much more established event that takes place at a nature reserve called Gosling Creek.

    The Run Director did a nice briefing and there were quite a few tourists at the event – I’m guessing that some of them were in Orange because of the mine, rather than just as sight-seers. We got a huge round of applause for having come from the UK, possibly because Orange is off the tourist trail, although there are some lovely wineries in the region.

    This time, M was joining us in her running buggy, so Stu agreed to push M and to run with me. Neither of us is on form, but even with a running buggy, Stuart is much faster than I am, so it was quite a challenge.

    Again, this parkrun was a nice mix of surfaces. It is a looping course with some reasonably steep inclines that are fairly short. There are sections on grass, trail and board walk and the scenery is lovely.

    The Run Director welcomed each runner back individually and then took a photo of the three of us. As you can see, M was exhausted by her early morning exertions!

    Orange parkrun

    My time was relatively slow for me, so I was pleased to find that I was 7/76 females and 1/5 in my age group!

    Our final parkrun was again at North Wollongong on our final morning in Australia. M had not slept well, (she’d spent a lot of the night screaming) so I really appreciated Bryony and Jonno getting up early to take us.

    M stayed at the beach with her Uncle and Aunt and Stu had a foot niggle, so he agreed to run with me. I realised at the start that I had failed to bring my inhaler with me. That was a bad move as the path was very dusty and it made breathing extra hard. I also didn’t have a drink with me.

    Second parkrun at North Wollongong

    I couldn’t remember how long my previous run had taken me, so I decided that I would aim to finish in the top 20 females. I set off towards the start and when we got towards the turning point, we saw the fastest runners on their way back. I started counting the female runners and could see that I was in the top 20, but that I would need to keep pushing to retain that position.

    2nd parkrun at North Wollongong

    I was really pleased to finish 15/107 females and 2/17 in my age group. I also achieved a PB for this course.

    Overall, I really enjoyed being a parkrun tourist in Australia. There are so many interesting courses and I’ve never been to a parkrun event that wasn’t friendly. I’ve now done 3 international parkruns, but am still stuck on 19 different UK events, so maybe that’s something I need to do more of next year.

    Which is your favourite parkrun and why?


    Fat Girl to Ironman has been nominated for the 2018 Running Awards. I would be really grateful if you would vote for me. Thank you 🙂

     

    Nominated for The 2018 Running Awards. Please vote for me.

    Back to Southampton parkrun

    17 Oct parkrun 14 Oct 17

    It was lovely to be back at Southampton parkrun this weekend, although there just wasn’t enough time to catch up with all of my running friends. Trevor and Alison were doing their 200th parkruns, which is a great milestone to reach.

    I met up with Rachel, a friend from Buggy Mums. It was lovely to see her little boy and also to meet her husband. I managed to keep up with the three of them for the first 3k, but my complete lack of fitness was showing and I wasn’t able to hang on.

    parkrun 14 Oct 17

    © Paul A. Hammond

    Just after I crossed the finish line, the runner ahead of me turned around. I hadn’t realised it was my friend, Charlotte. It was lovely to have a brief catch up with her.

    Southampton parkrun 14 Oct 17

    I’m annoyed that I’ve got so unfit and am hoping that the structure of returning to work will help me to develop a sensible training schedule.


    Fat Girl to Ironman has been nominated for the 2018 Running Awards. I would be really grateful if you would vote for me. Thank you 🙂

    Nominated for The 2018 Running Awards. Please vote for me.

    Monday Morning Motivation – Doyle Carpenter

    16 Oct Doyle Carpenter

    Doyle Carpenter

    It’s a short one this week – what could be more inspirational than reading about a pensioner WINNING an ultramarathon:

    77 year old wins two-day ultramarathon

     


    Thank you to everyone who’s voted for Fat Girl to Ironman so far – there’s still time to cast your vote in The 2018 Running Awards.

    Nominated for The 2018 Running Awards. Please vote for me.

    And it’s a NO for me

    10 Oct London Marathon rejection magazine 2017

    Another year and another rejection in the London Marathon ballot.

    VMLM Sorry

    Maybe one day, I’ll get a Good For Age place, but that would take a lot of training as I would need to be able to maintain a 5:19km.

    London Marathon rejection magazine 2017

    I really enjoyed running Southampton Marathon earlier this year, but think I’m more likely to aim for Southampton Half in April as I’ll be running a marathon at the Long Course Weekend in July.

    I’ve read a lot of discussion online about the allocation of London Marathon places. Some people believe it’s fair as Good For Age places exist and that ‘anyone can train to get a Good For Age place’ (I’m not sure I agree that anyone can achieve the standards). Others feel that it should go back to the old system where after a number of rejections, you automatically get a place. Others believe that you should have completed a half marathon before being allowed to apply for a place. Another alternative would be to have a system like NYRR run for the New York Marathon where anyone who volunteers at a set number of events (I think it’s 10 NYRR races) can get a place in New York Marathon. Of course, that scheme is much more achievable for someone who lives in the area. Another suggestion that I’ve heard is to delay the ballot until longer after the race so that only the dedicated remember to enter.

    I think that it’s great that the television coverage of London Marathon inspires so many people to take up running, and it’s brilliant that it raises so much money for charity, but in many ways it has become a spectacle, rather than being a race, with so many people wearing fancy dress or trying to set crazy records. I know some people will disagree with me, but I do think it would be helpful to require people who apply for the ballot to have run a half marathon within the previous 24 months. Yes, this would be a barrier to participation, but if someone is desperate enough to get a place then it’s a hoop they can easily jump through. I also think that if someone has been allocated a place through the ballot then they should not be able to enter the ballot for the next 2 years (or possibly longer). I know the ballot is down to chance, but when there are so many people who would really like to get a place, this would give people more of an opportunity (and seems fairer than the date restrictions of entering the ballot that existed in the past).

    Do you think the allocation of places is fair? If not, what solution would you propose?

    My colleague, Sarah, was lucky enough to get a place in the ballot and has decided to chronicle her training in a new blog: Marathon? WTF? (Where’s the finish line?) Please do visit, have a read and consider sponsoring her 🙂


    Thank you to everyone who’s voted for Fat Girl to Ironman so far – there’s still time to cast your vote in The 2018 Running Awards.

    Nominated for The 2018 Running Awards. Please vote for me.